Hot town, summer in the city

Wednesday 4 July 2018 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Independence Day

You know how you get a song stuck in your head? Right now, for me, it’s that 1966 classic by the Lovin’ Spoonful, “Summer in the City.” Of course, I don’t really live in the city, but no matter. 

Summer in the village has its own rhythm. It’s the Fourth of July. It’s definitely summer. Tonight will be the fireworks, or as Father John Gomes, then head counselor at St. Vincent de Paul Camp, used to call them, “pyrotechnics.” 

Once, we loaded all the happy campers in a school bus and headed over to see the town’s pyrotechnics up-close. The traffic was gridlocked. Pedestrians kept wandering in front of the bus. The kids were tired and overexcited. That’s when our rickety old bus (driven by Father Ed Byington) overheated. We were stranded by the side of the road. The “Grand Annual Fireworks Expedition” was quietly dropped from the camp’s calendar of events. It was easier to just watch the parade. 

I don’t have to fight the traffic in order to see the Falmouth fireworks. I just have to look out the window. A former pastor here, Msgr. John Regan, thoughtfully added a roof window to the old rectory. It’s very convenient for viewing fireworks. 

My dog Lurch hates fireworks, as do 45 percent of all dogs. Those who study such things report that more dogs run away from home on the Fourth of July than on any other day of the year. Lurch begins pacing the corridor two hours before the pyrotechnics are scheduled to begin. How does he know?

At the first sound of fireworks, Lurch will shiver and shake. I’ve tried pulling the window shades and turning the television up, but those strategies failed. He simply refuses to be consoled. I’ve even considered spending money on those newfangled doggy vests (called “thunder shirts”) I see advertised. There are also anti-stress chews for dogs and weighted anxiety blankets. These may work for some dogs, but I know Lurch and I know a “thunder shirt” will do nothing to calm him. The best thing to do is to scratch his head for 30 minutes. That works.

Main Street in Falmouth Village is bustling with cars and pedestrians. I keep the church doors unlocked for those who may wish to stop in for a quiet prayer. At any time of the day, I can expect to see people praying privately in the pews. 

Summer also brings a wave of homeless people. I see them walking the streets very early in the morning, with their backpacks and bicycles. I occasionally see them sitting alone in church, too, especially during a sudden downpour or during the heat and humidity of the afternoon. Many of them have emotional or mental heath issues but they usually prove to be little trouble. I know many of them by name, and I know some of their stories (their real stories, not the ones they make up to fit the occasion). Some of them are exceptionally talented in the arts; some of them have academic degrees. Plagued by their demons, they have taken a wrong turn on the road of life. Society is the lesser. 

Being summer, the queues have also grown longer. I waited half an hour yesterday at the drive-in window at that franchise with the golden arches (they look yellow to me). This morning, the wait at the Dippin’ Donuts was four times longer than usual. When I finally reached the service window, the attendant handed me my usual coffee (large, regular cream and sugar). On my recent birthday, parishioners gave me a total of $300 worth of gift cards at Dippin’ Donuts. It was a sure sign that the parishioners here have come to know me well. But the clerk would not accept my gift card. Was there something wrong with my card? “No,” the clerk explained, “It’s just that the person in the car ahead of you has already paid for your coffee. Have a nice day.” Yet another generous parishioner? 

The Fourth of July brings with it the clergy cookout at Father Jerry Hebert’s “little house” on Cape Cod. There were 10 of us this year. Father Dan Lacroix once again served as grill master. We gathered around the table and spoke of the usual things — Salvador Dali, steeples, George Washington, cemetery management, The Anchor, mobile phones, the evolution of seminary formation since the Council of Trent, and, as always, the stories of past adventures. 

Joining us this year for the first time was Greg Quenneville of St. Theresa Church, South Attleboro. I served as a priest in that parish years ago, but we didn’t seem to know each other. Greg is in II Pre-Theology, at St. John’s Seminary, Brighton. He brought to the table a decade of counseling military personnel returning from deployment.

We are, one might say, an eclectic group. Greg fit right in. 

And so went our annual Fourth of July celebration of our interdependence as priests of the Diocese of Fall River. 

Anchor columnist Father Tim Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.


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